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Hiking the GR221 Dry Stone Route, Majorca

Writing this post I can hardly believe that an entire year has passed since my boyfriend and I embarked on this little adventure across the Serra de Tramuntana in Majorca. It was the most incredible experience and easily one of my favourite travels to date. We got to walk through gorgeous little mountain villages, past endless dry stone terraces, olive and orange groves, forests and up open mountainsides, with beautiful sea views to accompany. Alongside the scenery, many stone structures line the paths such as old bread-ovens, large limekilns and charcoal burning platforms named sitges. Not only were the surroundings absolutely amazing and the camping a lot of fun, but I thoroughly enjoyed challenging and pushing myself in a new and exciting way. Unfortunately, it seems I may have pushed my body slightly too far, suffering a sprained ankle on our fifth day of hiking. Whilst I was absolutely gutted to say the least that we had to cut the route 3 days short, I am still proud of the 80km and 4 mountains achieved.

I would highly recommend the GR221 route to anyone looking for a more active, adventurous holiday. Given that I'd had little hiking experience of this calibre before, having only completed day walks and my Bronze DofE award previously, I would say this route is possible for all abilities of a reasonable physical fitness. In hindsight, it could be advisable for those new to hiking with a heavy bag possibly to take rest days or shorten some stages to make them less strenuous. We took an approach of finishing the route in 8 days, however this could be lengthened to 10, or more if you wish. Additionally, my boyfriend and I agreed that the first few days of this route are a bit more difficult than we initially expected with a lack of marked paths and a whole lot more clambering and scrambling than anticipated. Although, this just added to the fun. In total, the main route is around 140km long, although there are a few common variations that provide different start and finish points.

I'm going to share with you now a more detailed overview of our trip including the locations covered each day, any mistakes we may have made, highlights and the places we stayed. It is also worth noting that we used this guide book during our trip. This was useful for not only the maps but also the additional, interesting information it provides, allowing you to notice things you otherwise might overlook whilst walking. We stuck to the recommended stages each day from this guide, apart from combining the first two on the first day and intending to combine stages 6 and 7 also.

Day one: Port d'Antrax to Ses Fontanelles

Flying in to Majorca's capital, Palma, the previous evening, we started our first day by getting the 102 Bus over to Port d'Antrax where the route began. This first day was our longest in terms of distance and also one of the least well signposted of the trip. We did notice that the signposting appeared to get better in the latter stages of the route, however learning how to spot cairns amongst the undergrowth becomes vital in staying on track. Combining the first two days of the guidebook route meant we stopped in the gorgeous little seaside village of Sant Elm for a lunch stop. The first half of this day was a pleasant route with some good elevation, our only blip was during the decent into Sant Elm. Trying to find the correct path down through the many interconnecting routes in the forest proved difficult, but we made it eventually and enjoyed a baguette on the beach and coffee and ice cream in a local cafe.

Following Sant Elm we set off in aim of the small, mountainside hostel of Ses Fontanelles. Soon after leaving Sant Elm we were hiking up some steep elevation (whether technically a mountain or not I cannot remember - but it felt like one nonetheless). Upon reflection, we realised we had somehow come off the GR221 route that should have taken us around the summit rather than straight over the top, however we quickly rejoined the route once we were onto the other side. Although slightly off route, I was glad we took this path since the views from the top were absolutely breathtaking. On the other side we passed the ruin of an old monastery and had gorgeous sea views for the majority of the rest of the day. Once we had reached the highest point the path did become very rocky underfoot and quite hard to navigate. Admittedly, this long day started to drag for the last few kilometres and I was extremely glad to finally see the sight of Ses Fontanelles tucked down under a mountain, away from the main road we finished the route on. Ses Fontanelles was a really pleasant little mountain hostel with lovely owners. It is located entirely in isolation, with no phone signal, making it perfect for a quiet, peaceful first night. We booked this in advance which given its small size is definitely recommended. Overall, this first stage did not disappoint with the amazing scenery and the walking was generally not too tough for all abilities with just a few steep ascents.

Day two: Ses Fontanelles to Estellences

The route leading out of Ses Fontanelles was notably steep, climbing continually up through an overgrown forest and rocky paths (that were very close to a sheer drop) as well as involving quite a bit of scrambling. Again, the path was not particularly well marked meaning cairns were our best friend. Eventually, although still on an incline, we reached a large open space with incredible panoramic views where we stopped for a quick snack and some admiration. After reaching the highest point we descended down into a valley that was lined with mountain goat and found a picnic bench outside a closed hut for our lunch stop. The descent down into Estellences was really beautiful with extensive sea views and parts of the path surrounded by olive and orange groves. From what I remember, we had little trouble with following the route for this stage and again it was a pleasant walk with the majority of the steep uphill done early on in the day. After stopping for coffee and stocking up our food and water (and ice cream) supplies in Estellences, we cooked dinner and set up camp for the evening.

Day three: Estellences to Esporles

This stage was the shortest so far, which was quite welcomed after the two previous days. We pleasantly ambled the first part of the stage, ending up in Banyalbufar before too long where we had a quick coffee break. Carrying on from this took us on an ascent out of the village with extensive views over pretty tiered housing and olive groves. We ended up on a nice tree lined path in which the views were mostly obscured by the forest, but the shade was very welcomed. This whole stage had quite a pleasant walk with nothing particularly difficult to conquer except the heat. Before we knew it, we were soon arriving into the town of Esporles, probably the largest town we had passed through so far. Here we had booked to camp on the campsite of Refugi de Son Trias and were amazed by the beautiful views that surrounded it. Again, we booked this in advance which I would highly recommend to ensure you have a place to stay. Making the most of the extra time in the evening, we treated ourselves to a meal at a local restaurant instead of our usual trangia cooked dinner. Considerable amounts of sangria and paella were consumed (and greatly enjoyed) followed by card games back at the hostel.

Day four: Esporles to Valdemossa

I remember finding this stage quite tough, but thinking back I cannot put my finger on exactly why or which parts were most strenuous. The route out of Esporles was pleasant albeit on a steady incline from the beginning. A lot of this stage involved walking through forested paths, which proved quite difficult in terms of navigation meaning we had to stop and readjust a few times. A lot of climbing was involved, eventually completing our second mountain of the trip so far which hosted some incredible views of the tree-covered landscape from the top. Hiking back down into Valdemossa was steep and again had its navigational errors due to the overgrown and forest covered trails. But, the proper ice cream shop that was waiting for us in the town was well worth the struggles. After stopping off for lunch, a supply re-stock and (another) coffee, we ventured out the other side of Valdemossa passing gorgeous views of fields of olive groves. After beginning the extremely steep climb of yet another mountain, we stopped for the evening, joined by a mountain goat (or ten). This stage involved a fair amount of climbing, the most we had come across so far on the route as well as quite a lot of rugged terrain. Considering that, it makes sense why I found this a difficult one.

Day five: Valdemossa to Port de Soller

I really enjoyed the start of this stage. After beginning the hike up our third mountain the previous evening, we began the day steeply ascending until we reached the top. The paths were easily visible and quite a nice terrain for walking, making it all the more enjoyable. Views from the top were amazing, which continued as we traversed across, and slightly upward, to the summit of our second mountain of the day. Completing this part of the hike first thing in the morning was lovely given the slightly cooler temperatures and meant we had time to admire the view from the top.

However, just as the route up had been, the descent was extremely steep and quickly turned into forested, rocky terrain again. Unfortunately, this is when I went over on my ankle. Out of all the places this could have happened, I will admit the top of a mountain was not the most ideal. Once I'd pulled myself together and my boyfriend had made me a walking stick out of an old branch, we continued down the mountain, albeit at a considerably slower pace. This journey down into Deia seemed to take forever and was certainly not the most comfortable. But, without an injured ankle, it would have been a fairly straight forward route down since we found it easy to navigate but with any views obscured by the forest.

Once we reached the beautiful mountain town of Deia, we again treated ourselves to ice cream and lunch. Given the situation, we caught the bus in Deia that took us to our end location for the day of Port de Soller. Out of all the towns we had visited, this felt the most like a holiday destination and seemed to be buzzing with considerably more tourists. After spending the afternoon on the beach, drinking a beer in a local cafe and assessing the severity of my ankle injury, we eventually made our way up to Refugi de La Muleta we had booked for the night. As a note, this hostel is located about a 30 minute walk from the centre of Port de Soller positioned on top of a cliff looking out over the sea, hosting incredible views, especially during sunset. This refuge was really lovely and our stay here was more than comfortable.

Unfortunately this is where our route had to end. After much deliberation we decided it would have been foolish to continue and risk further injury to my ankle, which we had by then concluded I'd suffered at least a minor sprain. Luckily, the hostel put us up for another night and we then got a bus to our end location of Port de Pollenca, arriving a day earlier than planned.

Port de Pollenca was a brilliant end destination and we had a really fun, relaxing few days there to end our trip. I have to say, my boyfriend was nothing but supportive the entire journey, even when I was a misery for the evening plodding around with my swollen ankle feeling sorry for myself. As I said, I was completely gutted to have not been able to finish the route and felt somewhat guilty for cutting our adventure short, even though the sustained injury couldn't have been helped. Hiking this gorgeous route provided the most amazing, enjoyable experiences and perhaps even taught me some things about myself and my own abilities. I would race to do it all over again in a heartbeat and am desperate for us to get back to Majorca in the near future to finish what we started. It has also made me realise how many other places I would love to experience on foot in this way. I really hope this encourages even just one person to pursue this route one day because it is genuinely gorgeous and such a great, fun experience.

Has anyone else been on a hiking holiday? Where are your favourite locations? Let me know in the comments!

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